Since I was a little girl I wanted to be a storyteller. At recess time I would gather some of my schoolmates and entertain them with stories—some of my own, others just summaries of books I read. When I retired, after a career as a professor of computer science at The University of Western Ontario, I reverted to my old passion. I took several e-courses on fiction writing and began putting down my plots. So far I have written eight novels, several short stories and co-authored a novella. The genre varies from romantic suspense (Mountains of Dawn, The Collage, Cross of Sapphires, Operation Woman in Black, The Red Manor) to thriller (The Jungfrau Watch, The Blackpox Threat, The Bricklayer). Most of these books are available on Amazon.com.
The Blackpox Threat won First Place in the 2012 Five Star Dragonfly Award and was a Finalist in the 2011 National Indie Excellence Award; The Bricklayer got an Honorary Mention in the 2012 San Francisco Book Competition.
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Romancing the Tone:
Review of Rene Natan’s Mountain of Dawns
By Frank Mundo
Mountain of Dawns opens with a bang, literally: an explosion which kills one young woman named Kathy Alcin and injures another named Tanya Caldwell.
22 year-old Tanya Caldwell is an artist, “a dreamer” and a student at the Mackenzie Academy for the Visual Arts in Vermeil, Ontario, 80 miles outside of Toronto. “…Quiet. Well-mannered. Neat,” Tanya’s “a bit strange…like all creative people”. Orphaned as a child, Tanya dreams of dusty roads and the fosters homes she has bounced in and out of throughout her childhood. With no family, no money, and with no apparent connections to the world other than her art, Tanya seems harmless and rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So, why in the world would anyone want to kill her?
The explosion we learn, however, is not an accident, but a car bomb. A mob-style hit which seems to have been intended for Tanya, who had only loaned her car to her roommate for the day. Oddly enough, we learn that this isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) attempt on Tanya’s life as we follow her through the twists and turns of Rene Natan’s novel billed as a Romance/Thriller.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: Oh no, Romance novel, right? Those cheesy books at the grocery store with a glossy, embossed picture of a pastel, ruffle-bloused Fabio and his big tan man-boobs on the cover. That’s what I was thinking too when I was asked to review it. Thankfully, this is not one of those books (which, depressingly, by the way, are among the most sellable and most sought after manuscripts in all of genre fiction these days). Mountain of Dawns is far more thrilling than romantic in that sense. As Tanya flees to the Riviera (a safe haven for her art as well) she does have a romantic affair with a publisher named Kevin Matwin, and does meet up with an Italian Count with suspicious international connections and serious clout. But the “romantic” element, if anything, is linked more to a type of storytelling made famous by “sentimental” writers of the past, writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe or the Bronte sisters, and not the modern, escapist bologna that titillated housewives hide under their mattresses. In fact, Tanya Caldwell resembles, as a character, the character Jane Eyre in many ways, from her orphaned childhood to her mysterious ancestry and surprising windfalls.
The plot of Mountain of Dawns owes quite a bit to the plot of Charlotte Bronte’s famous feminist romance Jane Eyre as well. Those familiar with Bronte’s story know that I can’t say much more about the plot of Natan’s novel without spoiling the twists and surprising turn of events which link the innocent Tanya Caldwell to the financial motive of her corrupted and desperate would-be killers. Those unfamiliar with Jane Eyre (which I was forced to read in five different lit classes over the years) will just have to take my word for it.
Natan’s style, however, does differ from Bronte’s in that it lacks the strong biased tone and the heavy-handed ultra-sentimentalism of the old-fashion Romance novels. At times her prose even seems a bit journalistic and somewhat detached, (void of that tone or bias so apparent in those early romantic works) despite her story’s extremely personal nature and clever plot twists -- a story which closes, as it opens, with another surprising bang. Personally, I think her book might’ve benefited from a first person point-of-view, with a biased Tanya Caldwell at the wheel. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a bias in fiction. Honestly, I prefer it. I’ve even come, in many instances, to expect it. It is what creates the tone of most fiction.
But, then again, I’ve always had a bias toward the first person narrative.
Mountain of Dawns is Rene Natan’s first novel published in 1999 by Juppiter99 (available both in eBook and paperback versions) at very reasonable prices. Her other novels include Cross of Sapphires and The Collage (reviewed by Adrienne Jones and available in The Swamp’s “Review Archives“). Natan is also the author of shorter works Killing on Mount Yula, A Pair of Wings for Christmas, and Operation: Woman in Black. She is currently at work on a new novel.
From the Social Media
From the Press: http://newsblaze.com/story/20110320075530zzzz.nb/topstory.html
From the Frankie Boyer BLOG: http://frankieboyer.typepad.com/blog/2011/07/ frankie-boyers-guest-line-up-for-wednesday-7611.html
From KEMW-FM radio station Dr. Jim Lee presents Rene Natan: Interview